DENVER | The seniors on the Cherokee Trail girls track team could only watch as others would determine if they won the Class 5A state championship or not.
The Cougars had already done their work, piling up 85 points over the course of three days at Jefferson County Stadium that included a gamut of weather conditions, drama and emotion, yet they needed the performance of others in Saturday’s meet-closing 4×400 meter relay to help them win a state title.
Cherokee Trail slugged it out with Denver East event by event and it was the Angels who had the chance for the knockout blow with the Cougars not in the finals. Denver East needed a fifth-place finish to tie Cherokee Trail or a fourth or better win it all and looked strong two legs in, only to see the field catch up and end up sixth to the Cougars’ delight.
Final score: Cherokee Trail 85, Denver East 84.
“I was about to hop over the fence (during the race), I was so excited,” Cherokee Trail senior Jaiden Paris said. “We were so close to winning and so close to losing, so it was really stressful.”
The victory validated the strategy of Cherokee Trail coach Chris Faust, who believed putting Arizona State-bound star Sydnee Larkin in four open events and pulling her off the 4×100 meter relay — the favorite event for Paris, Larkin, Taylor Watson and Chian DeLoach — would be the formula to win a title.
Larkin came through with a state championship in the long jump, a runner-up finish in the triple jump and fourth-place results in the 100 and 200 meters, while the 4×100 relay still managed to finish second with Mahogany Richardson subbing in for Larkin. The same group also claimed second in an Aurora-heavy 4×200 relay that saw five city teams make the medal podium.
DeLoach far exceeded her pre-meet seeding in the jumps (securing eight more points than she was seeded to score, plus a foot PR in the triple jump), Paris scored big in both hurdles events — including a runner-up finish to Rock Canyon star Emily Sloan in the 100 hurdles — in addition to relay work and Watson finished second in the 100 and fifth in the 200.
The Cougars’ 4×800 meter relay team of junior Caitlin McConnell, sophomores Madison Gibson and Soonhee Han and freshman Abby Snogren also grabbed a point on the first day of the meet with a ninth-place finish.
Still, Faust didn’t know if the math would work out in Cherokee Trail’s favor until the end.
“You’re keeping track of points and you’re kindof hoping the other team is going to slip up somewhere, but Denver East never slipped up,” Faust said. “They just kept getting points and we thought they couldn’t possibly put together all of those relays and then they did.
“It was unbelievable. These girls just kept competing the whole time.”
The Cougars also got a little bit of a help on their way to the title, especially from their fellow members of the Centennial League.
Grandview sophomore Lily Williams stole two points from Denver East when she upset Angels’ star Arria Minor in the 400 meters with a lean at the finish line. Williams also won the 4×400 meter relay for the Wolves when she edged Smoky Hill’s Amelia Johannes at the finish line.
“When Lily beat them in the 400, I ran all the way over from the jumps and gave her the biggest hug,” DeLoach said.
The only disappointment of the meet from Cherokee Trail’s standpoint was Larkin coming up short of winning the triple jump for a third straight season.
Former Cougar Aumni Ashby, competing for Cherry Creek, jumped 40 feet, 11 1/2 inches, while the best legal result for Larkin — who scratched on four of her six total attempts between her flight and finals — was 40-8 1/2.
“I was disappointed at first, but I’m over it now,” Larkin said. “I still have the state record (41 feet, 7 inches, established at the Centennial League Championships), so I’m satisfied with that. That was my goal coming into the season, but it is a bummer not being a three-time state champion.
“I have college ahead and it’s just going to push me to work harder and get better.”
Watson had trouble even processing the ups and downs over the three days and how things worked out, all the way down to watching the final nervewracking race.
“Every single point counted,” Watson said. “East is such a great team, they pushed us and we pushed them. It was just amazing.
“It was like a movie.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Sentinel Prep Sports
2018 CLASS 5A GIRLS STATE TRACK MEET
May 17-19, 2018, at Jefferson County Stadium
Team scores: 1. CHEROKEE TRAIL 85 points; 2. Denver East 84; 3. GRANDVIEW 69; 4. Mountain Vista 59; 5. Rock Canyon 50; 6. Cherry Creek 48; 7. Broomfield 39; 8. Douglas County 34.5; 9. Highlands Ranch 34; 10. ThunderRidge 33; 11. Legend 27; T12. RANGEVIEW 25; T12. Fort Collins 25; T12. Fort Collins 25; T12. Rocky Mountain 25; T15. SMOKY HILL 23; T15. Fairview 23; T15. Boulder 23; 18. REGIS JESUIT 22; 19. Monarch 21; 20. OVERLAND 19; 21. Liberty 11.5; 22. Legacy 11; 23. Mountain Range 10; 24. Fossil Ridge 8.5; 25. Chaparral 8; T26. HINKLEY 7; T26. Greeley West 7; 28. Rampart 5.5; 29. Bear Creek 5; T30. Fountain-Fort Carson 4; T30. Poudre 4; T30. Loveland 4; T30. Lakewood 4; T34. Columbine 3; T34. Ralston Valley 3; T34. Arapahoe 3; T37. Doherty 2; T37. Coronado 2; T39. Fruita Monument 1; T39. Denver South 1
Cherokee Trail state placers
Chian DeLoach, sr. (2nd, 5A long jump/5th, 5A triple jump); Sydnee Larkin, sr. (state champion, 5A long jump/2nd, 5A triple jump/4th, 5A 100 meters/4th, 5A 200 meters); Jaiden Paris, sr. (2nd, 5A 100 meter hurdles/6th, 5A 300 meter hurdles); Taylor Watson, sr. (2nd, 5A 100 meters/5th, 5A 200 meters); Relays: Jaiden Paris, Chian DeLoach, Mahogany Richardson, Taylor Watson (2nd, 5A 4×200 meter relay); Jaiden Paris, Taylor Watson, Chian DeLoach, Mahogany Richardson (2nd, 5A 4×100 meter relay); Abby Snogren, Caitlin McConnell, Madison Gibson, Soonhee Han (9th, 5A 4×800 meter relay)
Full list of Aurora girls placers at the 5A/4A state track meet, here